There is never a shortage of mud in Seattle and the Dennis the Menace style cliché of kids playing with the stuff doesn’t seem to cause even a moment’s pause in the children’s pursuit of it.
With the rainy season fully upon us, the kids haven’t failed to notice that our rain barrel (which contains water redirected from the roof) is now perpetually full, meaning the self-imposed rationing required by our dry fall is over. There have been dozens of mud soups, mud pies and mud puddles, but the big communal outdoor pursuit during this first week of the year has been to mix up large batches, then to use shovels to “catapult” it against the wall of the school, creating results like this:
This is only shows a small portion of our mud art. I couldn’t figure out how, for instance, to photographically portray that there are splats of mud as high as 15 feet up the wall. The boys (and the catapult-ers so far have been mostly boys) are not always as accurate as they hope (another cliché about the broad side of a barn comes to mind) which makes our garden area a hazardous place to be these days. Hazardous at least in terms of choosing the time and manner of one’s own besmirching. This has naturally caused some conflict that, so far, hasn’t been satisfactorily handled.
Just at the end of play yesterday, our lead catapulter, Thomas, suggested that we need to set up a “safety perimeter” using caution cones the way we did when we used our dangerous tools to help along our decomposing pumpkins. We’ll probably also need a group discussion during circle time on Monday to sort out some of the rules around mud flinging.
All that aside, however, one of the best things about this entirely child-motivated project is that it’s caused the adults to avoid the garden, leaving the children out there, under our eyes, but not within reach, to guide one another. There’s been a lot discussion among them about how to best do what they’re doing, especially on the topic of getting it up to the second story windows. And there’s been a lot of laughing into one another’s faces, which to me is an act of pure love.
Just on the other side of our garden fence another group of artists, inspired I think by the catapulters, has taken on their own, less muddy outdoor art project using wet sidewalk chalk to create this beauty:
Several years ago, we were the lucky recipients of dozens of jars of very old powdered tempera paint from an artist who was cleaning out his basement. We’ve been feeding off this supply for years and are now down to the browns and blacks. I wanted to try extending the mud play inside yesterday, so cut the side off a washing machine box and put it on the art table. We then used our boxes as tables to set up a mixing station where the children found bowls of brown, black and white powder, spoons, small scoops and buckets of water. On the cardboard we had out various tools used by plasterers and masons for scoring concrete and creating texture and patterns on walls and floors. It was a huge mess (special thanks to our art parent Aya) tons of fun, and mostly a project of the girls. It had the added sensory element of filling the room with the old style odor of egg tempera.
This is our masterpiece:
You can’t really tell from the photo, but it’s about 5’X3’. You can probably see that we wound up adding some other colors as well.
Here are some close-ups of the details:
I love rich texture like this. It's the reason Van Gogh remains my favorite painter.
As we were working on it, I said, “When it’s dry we should hang it on the wall.”
Ella stopped what she was doing to look around the room thoughtfully, “Maybe we should hang it on the ceiling.”
Brilliant! One of the problems with our space is that it tends to be a bit acoustically challenged. The parent part of the community started the year by discussing the idea of installing some sort of sound absorbing apparatus on the ceiling. I can think of nothing better than cardboard covered in children’s art and the installation will probably require nothing more than mounting tape. We’ll have to see how it dries, but we have seven more sides of appliance boxes at our disposal . . .